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Jaguars likely to be teamed with Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tennessee


In a meeting of the NFL membership in Dallas on Wednesday, owners agreed to share equally the visiting team gate receipts beginning with the 2002 season, when the Houston Texans begin play.

The agreement will aid in realignment, since it will eliminate gate-receipt interests of team's in big-stadium divisions who've traditionally realized greater revenue than teams in small-stadium divisions.

As it pertains to the Jaguars in realignment, pooling of the visiting team share could help pave the way to an AFC South Division in 2002 that would include the Jaguars, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee. Of those four teams, only the Jaguars' stadium has a seating capacity in excess of 70,000.

That AFC South alignment is currently the most likely realignment scenario for the Jaguars. Owner Wayne Weaver says he would accept such an arrangement, though he has reservations about the small TV market it would present.

Weaver would prefer to exchange Indianapolis for Houston, but Tennessee owner Bud Adams doesn't want to be in the same division with Houston, which Adams fled following the 1996 season.

Further cementing Indianapolis' position in the AFC South is the wishes of Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, a driving force in realignment. Rooney wants his Steelers to be joined in the AFC Central by Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland, but would exchange Baltimore for Houston. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston and Pittsburgh comprised the AFC Central from 1970-94. Rooney would not exchange either Baltimore or Houston for Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, Houston is thought to favor being returned to the "old AFC Central."

Weaver is also thought to favor a move to the NFC in an NFC South that would include the Jaguars, Atlanta, Carolina and Tennessee, giving that division southeast regionality. However, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, who would agree to be teamed with the Jaguars, doesn't want to be in the same division with two AFC defectors.

The vote to share the visiting team gate receipts, which will include preseason games, was 29-1 with two abstentions. The home team will continue to keep 66 percent of the gate, and the remaining 34 percent will be pooled and shared equally by the league's 32 teams.

The agreement is expected to eliminate a major economics factor from the realignment issue, allowing teams to focus more on geography and natural rivalries in realigning the league for the 2002 season. At that time, the league will add AFC and NFC south divisions, and the NFL's eight divisions will have four teams each.

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